Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Amazon's The Lord of the Rings in 2022

Amazon Studios has shared an enigmatic teaser image and announced a release date for its ambitious billion-dollar adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.

“The journey begins September 2, 2022 with the premiere of our original ‘The Lord of the Rings’ series on Prime Video,” said Jennifer Salke, Head of Amazon Studios. “I can’t express enough just how excited we all are to take our global audience on a new and epic journey through Middle-earth! Our talented producers, cast, creative, and production teams have worked tirelessly in New Zealand to bring this untold and awe-inspiring vision to life.”

The latest live-action adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy epic was announced in 2017 and then seemingly lost, like the one ring, to the mists of time. All the while new competitors entered the streaming space including Apple TV+ and Disney+ and a pandemic engulfed the world.

TheOneRing.net exclusively shared the official synopsis:

"Amazon Studios’ forthcoming series brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone."

“As Bilbo says, ‘Now I think I am quite ready to go on another journey,’” said showrunners J.D. Payne & Patrick McKay. “Living and breathing Middle-earth these many months has been the adventure of a lifetime. We cannot wait for fans to have the chance to do so as well.”

Principal photography for the first season has finished in New Zealand with a year of postproduction to follow.

“I can’t express enough just how excited we all are to take our global audience on a new and epic journey through Middle-earth!” added Salke. “Our talented producers, cast, creative, and production teams have worked tirelessly in New Zealand to bring this untold and awe-inspiring vision to life.”

The ensemble cast includes Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Robert Aramayo, Owain Arthur, Maxim Baldry, Nazanin Boniadi, Morfydd Clark, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Charles Edwards, Trystan Gravelle, Sir Lenny Henry, Ema Horvath, Markella Kavenagh, Joseph Mawle, Tyroe Muhafidin, Sophia Nomvete, Lloyd Owen, Megan Richards, Dylan Smith, Charlie Vickers, Leon Wadham, Benjamin Walker, Daniel Weyman and Sara Zwangobani.

Are you excited to return to Middle-earth for the first time since Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 2 August 2021

E.T. & Elliott statue from Iron Studios

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Iron Studios is releasing a limited edition statue based on the iconic 'flying over the moon' scene from director Steven Spielberg's (Jaws) beloved 1982 movie.

Here’s the official product description of the E.T. & Elliott statue from Iron Studios:

"Created by Steven Spielberg and written by Melissa Mathison, 1982’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is among the highest-grossing films of all time, winning four Oscars, and added to the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry, being designated as culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.

In the film, a group of botanical aliens secretly visit Earth at night to collect plant specimens. With the arrival of US government vehicles, the group leaves Earth in its spaceship, leaving one of its small members behind, who had separated from the group. The creature ends up meeting a local boy named Elliott, who then goes on to hide and protect the little lost being on Earth, creating a tender bond of friendship with a deep empathic connection between them.

This statue marks the debut of another license acquired by Iron Studios, scheduled for 2022, which will also be the 40th anniversary celebration of E.T.’s premiere in theaters."

You can pre-order regular and deluxe editions today.

Will you be adding the E.T. & Elliott statue from Iron Studios to your collection? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 1 August 2021

35 years of Labyrinth

Labyrinth remains a teenage touchstone and cinematic capsule preserving cherished memories that can be reopened whenever I stream Jim Henson's fan-favourite fantasy film on Netflix.

Sony's celebrating Labyrinth's 35th anniversary with a 4K Blu-ray disc set (affiliate link).

Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, faces dangers untold and hardships unnumbered.

Guest post by Nick Smith

While Aliens, Top Gun and Stand By Me all celebrate their 35th anniversary this year, there’s only one film from 1986 that has living cannonballs, talking door knockers and David Bowie songs.

When Labyrinth premiered, it was the latest in an inventive trail of Jim Henson features that included The Muppet Movie and The Dark Crystal. But this one had deeper, more far-reaching themes than Follow That Bird.

I grew up with a younger sister, Becky, who related to the lead character of Sarah (Jennifer Connelly, only 14 years old when she auditioned). Becky marvelled at the friendlier characters in the movie – Ludo (Ron Mueck), Sir Didymus (voiced by David Shaughnessy) – while I enjoyed the Pythonesque wisecracks, written by Terry Jones. His sense of humour seemed to blend perfectly with Henson’s muppet mayhem. I could also relate to Sarah as a resentful babysitter.

It didn’t hurt that the executive producer was George Lucas, the man who had opened my eyes to the fantastical world of filmmaking with Star Wars. So, Labyrinth was as special as a goblin secret whispered to a baby, and its air of hope and innocence seem perfect for the era that spawned it.

As Labyrinth opens, we meet a Sarah who is willful, headstrong and spoiled. She takes too many things for granted and she can’t even remember her lines. She’s got plenty of room to grow and she does, as she enters the realm of the Goblin King (David Bowie) to rescue her infant brother.

Cleverly, director Henson establishes a landscape where a wall can look fake because it is – we’re on a movie set! – and we question what is real and what is true, with some of the characters admitting that they’re liars and others telling Sarah she’s on the wrong track. Sarah is aided by quirky characters like Ludo, Didymus and Hoggle, who all help to add whimsical humour lacking in The Dark Crystal.

Labyrinth is jam-packed with imaginative ideas: the Bog of Eternal Stench, a giant steampunk robot, goblin guards with snapping lizard lances… lest we hail the film for its originality, it must be acknowledged that there are references to and echoes of Maurice Sendak (Outside Over There), Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz and artists M.C. Escher and Salvador Dali.

In one scene, King Jareth’s face is formed by rocks, and the film revels in the kind of visual trickery found in Dali paintings like Apparition of Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach. There’s also the town of the goblins, a delightful exercise in German expressionist architecture.

Beyond the sympathetic characters and creative visuals, there are important themes that gain meaning as time passes for the audience: the inevitable weight of responsibility; the dangers of materialism and hoarding; the allure of fairytales versus the emotional rewards of facing reality.

Combined with Connelly’s wide-eyed innocent performance (she would go on to win an Oscar for her role in A Beautiful Mind) and Bowie’s passing, Labyrinth possesses more dark and glorious magic now than the Goblin King ever did.

Labyrinth is a celebration of art, wit, music and imagination that resonates with the kids who grew up with it.

What are your Labyrinth memories? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 31 July 2021

LEGO Star Wars: Republic Gunship

Chosen by you, it is.

The new LEGO Star Wars: Republic Gunship, as seen in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, is the first Ultimate Collector Series (UCS) set voted for by fans and goes on sale this August.

Jens Kronvold Frederiksen, creative lead of LEGO Star Wars at the LEGO Group, said: “Our fans are always coming up with concepts and ideas for the LEGO Star Wars range – so it was great to give them the opportunity to let their voices be heard and choose the next UCS set.

“There is always an enormous responsibility to deliver a quality design, and the set that Hans has crafted is a triumph, particularly the size. We knew our fans would want to display this model but we didn’t want to compromise on the scale versus the ability to exhibit it. I can’t wait to see how the fans incorporate the set into their Star Wars collections.”

The Republic Gunship is available from LEGO AU, UK and US (affiliate links).

Will you be adding LEGO Star Wars: Republic Gunship to your collection? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 30 July 2021

Jodie Whittaker to leave Doctor Who

Following Sunday's Comic-Con@Home panel, and months of speculation, Thirteenth Doctor Jodie Whittaker and series showrunner Chris Chibnall are leaving Doctor Who ahead of the 60th anniversary in 2023.

Chris Chibnall says: “Jodie and I made a “three series and out” pact with each other at the start of this once-in-a-lifetime blast. So now our shift is done, and we’re handing back the TARDIS keys.

“Jodie’s magnificent, iconic Doctor has exceeded all our high expectations. She’s been the gold standard leading actor, shouldering the responsibility of being the first female Doctor with style, strength, warmth, generosity and humour. She captured the public imagination and continues to inspire adoration around the world, as well as from everyone on the production. I can’t imagine working with a more inspiring Doctor – so I’m not going to!

“For me, leading this exceptional team has been unrivalled creative fun, and one of the great joys of my career. I’m so proud of the people we’ve worked with and the stories we’ve told. To finish our time on the show with an additional Special, after the pandemic changed and challenged our production plans, is a lovely bonus. It’s great that the climax of the Thirteenth Doctor’s story will be at the heart(s) of the BBC’s centenary celebrations.

“I wish our successors - whoever the BBC and BBC Studios choose - as much fun as we’ve had. They’re in for a treat!”

Jodie Whittaker adds: “In 2017 I opened my glorious gift box of size 13 shoes. I could not have guessed the brilliant adventures, worlds and wonders I was to see in them. My heart is so full of love for this show, for the team who make it, for the fans who watch it and for what it has brought to my life. And I cannot thank Chris enough for entrusting me with his incredible stories. We knew that we wanted to ride this wave side by side, and pass on the baton together. So here we are, weeks away from wrapping on the best job I have ever had. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to express what this role has given me. I will carry the Doctor and the lessons I’ve learnt forever.

“I know change can be scary and none of us know what’s out there. That’s why we keep looking. Travel Hopefully. The Universe will surprise you. Constantly.”

Piers Wenger, Director of BBC Drama, says: “Over the last four years Chris and Jodie have made Doctor Who history and their time on the show is indelibly marked on our memories. From Rosa Parks to Ascension of the Cybermen, Chris and Jodie have given Doctor Who some of its most life-affirming and tear-jerking moments to date and we are beyond excited to see what they have in store for us in the new series this autumn.

"Jodie's final adventure to mark the BBC's Centenary in 2022 is set to be a Doctor Who Special to remember. I’d like to thank them both for their incredible work on the show.”

I'll miss her and the TARDIS fam. Series 11 was the first I've watched, since the Tom Baker era in the seventies, with my dad. Rosa Parks, The Haunting of Villa Diodati and Ascension of the Cybermen/The Timeless Children are among some of the best episodes in the beloved sci-fi franchise's storied history.

However, series 13 will be shown later this year and is a 6-part special event. Weekly cliffhangers are a thing!

Are you disappointed Jodie Whittaker's leaving or excited to discover the next Doctor Who? Who do you think should play the titular Time Lord? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 29 July 2021

The Nevers' phantasmagorical finale

Before cancelling my subscription to NOW (formerly NOW TV) last month, I managed to finish the first six episodes of HBO Max's The Nevers and was held spellbound by its timey-wimey twist.

Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, takes a deep dive into the fantastical finale chronicling the adventures of Joss Whedon's Victorian X-Men.

Guest post by Nick Smith

Okay, has everyone caught up with True, the latest episode of The Nevers? They have? Great. Now we can discuss and dissect it like a captive Galanthi.

Episode Six of The Nevers – the last before a COVID-conscious hiatus – is fascinating and the only TV instalment I’ve watched twice in the same year since Breaking Bad, you know, the one with the train. Second time around, this sci-fi Victorian superhero mashup does not disappoint. It reads like a role-playing game where just when you’re getting settled, the GM turns the tables - and the genre - on its head.

Sure, we’re introduced to the concept of aliens flying over London in the pilot episode of this new series. But now we’re transported to an apocalyptic scenario that feels very Doctor Who, complete with a smattering of British accents and allegories about not judging by appearances. The TARDIS wouldn't be out of place, standing discreetly in a corner of the bunker where we find ourselves holed up. The futuristic location is occupied by a bad batch of troops from the Planetary Defence Coalition.

As soon as the lead character, Zephyr (Claudia Black), taps her fingers against her thumb it’s inferred that she’s Mrs. Amalia True (Laura Donnelly). They talk the same and have the same attitude, if not the same accent. It’s a relief, since Amalia is an unappealing character and her battle-worn backstory gives us a chance to sympathize with her.

Zephyr’s tomorrow war ends with a dark and lonely moment. Hundreds of years earlier in Victorian London, Molly True lives a dank, hard knock life delivering pies and caring for her bedridden mother-in-law. Faced with doctor’s bills and a hopeless future, she attempts to drown herself; when she’s dragged out of the Thames, she’s possessed by Zephyr, bringing us full circle to when we met her in the first episode.

This mid-season finale feels like the conclusion to a whole year because it answers so many questions – how the Touched get their powers (from alien spores), how Amalia met Maladie the serial killer, and why Amalia can be such a jerk sometimes. However, other questions remained unanswered, most intriguingly who else has ‘hitched a ride’ in someone else’s body.

In the previous episode, Hanged, we’re schooled not to trust our senses. Maladie wears a disguise and has a double; even though she is due to be executed, she does not want the ‘good guys’ to mount a successful rescue. As Police Inspector Frank Mundi (Ben Chaplin) discovers, not all is what it first appears. But like a diligent viewer, he reviews the clues and figures out what’s going on. We are fellow detectives on this labyrinthine path, deciding what evidence to focus on and what to discard.

One theme that originator Joss Whedon and his successors do want us to latch onto is that of optimism. In the land of the Nevers, past or future, cynicism is bad and destructive. ‘Nitta died in… my despair,’ says Zephyr/Amalia. It’s hard to hope, though, in the face of our world’s ecological demise. ‘It’s time to tell them what’s coming,’ she tells her buddy Penance (Ann Skelly); when she says 'them,' she’s talking about the superhumans they’ve gathered but she’s also talking about us. We need to be forewarned so that we can be armed but also trust in the dogged determination of people like Zephyr.

This theme, emphasized with wit and grace in the first six episodes of this show, remind us that in the real world there’s hope to be found as well. Humans are blessed with a unique foresight, developed as a survival mechanism, and we can save the planet or destroy it.

Have you watched The Nevers and are you looking forward to the second half of season one in 2022? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Spooky reunion in Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Sony's dropped a new trailer for Ghostbusters: Afterlife. The latest instalment in the fan-favourite franchise was delayed due to the pandemic.

Here's the official synopsis:

"From director Jason Reitman and producer Ivan Reitman, comes the next chapter in the original Ghostbusters universe. In Ghostbusters: Afterlife, when a single mom and her two kids arrive in a small town, they begin to discover their connection to the original ghostbusters and the secret legacy their grandfather left behind. The film is written by Jason Reitman & Gil Kenan."

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a direct sequel to Ghostbusters II, which seemed more interested in promoting Sony products than the genuine scares and thrills of the beloved 1984 original (forever intertwined with pop culture juggernaut: Michael Jackson's Thriller), upon its release in 1989.

Please gift me Ghostbusters Plasma Series Mini-Pufts collectables from Hasbro Pulse for Halloween.

This time Ghostbusters has a nostalgic momentum behind it in the wake of the success of Netflix's Stranger Things (not least because of the meta connection), and I'm genuinely excited for the movie's release this November.

Are you looking forward to Ghostbusters: Afterlife? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

ILM hires Deepfake expert

When Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) cameoed in The Mandalorian second season finale last Christmas, most Star Wars fans (myself included) were overwhelmingly surprised and delighted to see the beloved Jedi Knight at the peak of his audacious powers.

However, the de-ageing technology, utilised by Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), was divisive. And independent VFX wizards quickly got to work on subjectively improving the visuals (following in the hallowed footsteps of Star Wars creator George Lucas' endless tinkering on the original trilogy).

One stood out from the rest. YouTube Deepfake star, Shamook.

His work was so impressive, it caught the attention of the fine folks at Lucasfilm who have subsequently hired him. IndieWire confirms in this quote:

“Over the past several years ILM has been investing in both machine learning and A.I. as a means to produce compelling visual effects work and it’s been terrific to see momentum building in this space as the technology advances.”

This is a mission statement suggesting there'll be more classic characters appearing in Star Wars spin-offs both on the big screen and Disney+.

“As some of you may already know, I joined ILM/Lucasfilm a few months ago and haven’t had the time to work on any new YouTube content,” Shamook wrote in a comment this month. “Now I’ve settled into my job, uploads should start increasing again. They’ll still be slow, but hopefully not months apart. Enjoy!”

Are you a fan of Deepfake technology or more concerned with the possible ethical implications therein? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 26 July 2021

Doctor Who panel at Comic-Con 2021

During Sunday's Doctor Who panel at Comic-Con@Home 2021, the BBC dropped a trailer for series 13.

Watch showrunner Chris Chibnall, Jodie Whittaker (Doctor Who), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), new companion John Bishop (Dan) and a very special surprise guest as they share exclusive content from Doctor Who.

“Before we started making it, there were times when we thought we were going to be unable to do the show under Covid conditions this year… there were two ways you could go,” Chibnall told Deadline. “You could go ‘let’s do lots of tiny little episodes in one room, with no monsters,’ or we could throw down the gauntlet and do the biggest story we’ve ever done. We’re going to go to all kinds of different places, we’re going to have all kinds of characters and monsters, and it’s all going to be part of a bigger whole. It’s definitely the most ambitious thing we’ve done since we’ve been on the series.”

Whittaker's tenure as the titular Time Lord is rumoured to be coming to an end. However, this is simply speculation, and there's the small matter of the beloved sci-fi series' 60th anniversary in 2023.

Are you looking forward to the new 8-part series later this year on BBC One, BBC America and HBO Max? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 18 July 2021

Black Series Rancor teased by HasLab

The Rancor was one of my favourite large-scale action figures from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, terrorising the Rebel Alliance and Action Force, on the Jurassic Coast, in the early eighties.

HasLab has now teased Jabba the Hutt's pit-dwelling beast for the Black Series.

“Following the success of the previous two HasLab campaigns for Star Wars: The Vintage Collection, our team is so thrilled to offer fans the first-ever HasLab project from The Black Series – the Rancor!” says Michael Ballog, Hasbro’s vice president for the Star Wars brand. “We hope fans of The Black Series line are prepared for this iconic creature to join their 6-inch-scale collections.”

HasLab, Hasbro's crowd-funded toy line, has been a huge success with collector's, and Marvel Legends' Galactus is the latest to join the premium collection alongside Transformers' Unicron exclusively on Hasbro Pulse.

Will you be adding Jabba's pet Rancor to your Black Series collection? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 16 July 2021

WandaVision wows with Emmy nominations

The first season of Marvel Studios' Loki may have ended, but Disney+ is basking in the glow of Emmy nominations for its original Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and Star Wars spin-off series.

WandaVision has garnered 23 nominations including nods for Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch), Paul Bettany (Vision) and Kathryn Hahn (Agatha Harkness). The live-action series was praised for how it dealt with loss and grief - themes amplified in the midst of a global pandemic.

“The grief journey was the tethering force,” showrunner Jac Schaeffer told The Times. “I aligned each episode to the stages of grief, so the story is told nonlinearly but the grief story is linear. We start in [Wanda's] denial and move all the way to acceptance.”

“We were using the superhero space to explore mental health, conflict resolution, self-acceptance. So many superhero stories right now deal with things like PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder] and crisis of identity. The terrain of our current mythology has to do with emotion and psychology. Something that Marvel is doing well is an examination of all the different motivations in a given conflict as opposed to good versus bad. We all, as consumers, have grown up a bit and know the world is far messier than that.”

Marvel Studios' stablemate The Falcon and the Winter Soldier garnered 5 nominations.

Lucasfilm's The Mandalorian received 24 nominations and is tied with Netflix's The Crown. Disney+ is a relative newcomer to the streaming space, quickly establishing itself as a prestige drama series powerhouse. To infinity and beyond...

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Daisy Ridley stars in Twelve Minutes

5 years ago, I was with friends at Star Wars Celebration Europe, which will always be a treasured memory.

Whilst the Star Wars sequel trilogy may have ended, Daisy Ridley (Rey) is starring in Twelve Minutes, an upcoming video game releasing for Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and PC.

Read the synopsis:

“In Twelve Minutes, you keep living the same specific time period over and over again. While a man and his wife are sharing an evening in peace, a man comes in and claims to be a cop. He accuses the woman of murder. After this, the 12 minutes start repeating. You need to fully understand the situation and the underlying truth. You also need to find some clues and take a closer look at the details.”

Twelve Minutes, co-starring James McAvoy (X-Men) and Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man), will be available on Game Pass on 19th August.

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Power of the Force Cantina Showdown

To commemorate the first 50 years of Lucasfilm, Hasbro has announced Star Wars The Black Series Cantina Showdown in vintage The Power of the Force packaging.

This isn't the first time Hasbro has released a Cantina Showdown collectable set. There was a Han Solo vs. Greedo Comic-Con exclusive in 2014.


(HASBRO/Age 4 years & up/Approx. Retail Price: $104.99/Available: Fall 2021)

Commemorate the first 50 years of LUCASFILM with figures inspired by the original STAR WARS trilogy featuring STAR WARS The Power of the Force-themed packaging. Recall intense moments from the STAR WARS Galaxy with this STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES THE POWER OF THE FORCE CANTINA SHOWDOWN Playset, featuring DR. EVAZAN, PONDA BABA, and OBI-WAN KENOBI 6-inch-scale figures. STAR WARS fans can display these fully articulated figures featuring poseable heads, arms, and legs, as well as premium deco, in their action figure and vehicle collection. The playset combines with additional CANTINA SHOWDOWN playsets to create the full scene inspired by STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE. Additional playsets sold separately. Includes Cantina bar, 3 figures, and 3 accessories. Available exclusively on Hasbro Pulse in the US, Canada & UK in Fall 2021.

The Power of the Force toy line ran from 1995 to 2000. I remember collecting action figures from a defunct local comic book store and Toys "R" Us, Norwich.

I joined Hasbro Pulse Premium when it launched last March in the UK. However, exclusive products such as the Transformers-Jurassic Park mash-up pack sell out fast, so it's unlikely I'll renew as the Pawtucket-based company continues to pivot towards the premium collector's market.

Cantina Showdown will be made available during Hasbro PulseCon 2021. Happy toy hunting fellow Star Wars collectors, and watch out for anyone with a death sentence in 12 systems.

Have you joined Hasbro Pulse Premium, and are you excited about The Power of the Force products? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 12 July 2021

What Boba Fett did next...

It's the 25th anniversary of Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire and whilst we wait for The Book of Boba Fett this Christmas on Disney+, Marvel Comics takes us back to a time between Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi in War of the Bounty Hunters.

Our very own US-based stellar scribe, Nick Smith, grabs his latest comic book bounty, from TBS Comics in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, and goes in pursuit of the infamous Boba Fett.

Guest post by Nick Smith

It’s a story as old as that galaxy far, far away – a protagonist does a favour for a friend in lieu of payment and has to face a series of challenges, eventually finding that the favour could prove fatal thanks to an obstacle that’s bigger and more threatening than he ever expected.

However, in War of the Bounty Hunters, that protagonist is the legendary Boba Fett and the payment concerns that scruffy Corellian smuggler Han Solo. “Precious Cargo,” from Marvel Comics, sets off a chain of events that will span what’s being described as the biggest crossover in Star Wars comics history, filling all 4 monthly titles and a dedicated title (War of the Bounty Hunters). In all, it will take more than 30 issues to tell this story through October 2021. Boushh and IG-88 will get their own comics, while 4-LOM and Zuckuss have to share one.

“Precious Cargo” kicks off five preludes to the war, opening with Boba in his ship Slave 1 [Disney's subsequently renamed it as Boba Fett's Starship - Ed]. He’s just left Bespin with Han encased in carbonite and he’s en route for Tatooine where Solo will become Jabba the Hutt’s favourite decoration. Since The Empire Strikes Back focuses on Luke Skywalker, we’ve never seen What Fett Did Next – until now.

In this kind of crossover, there is no possible character progression for Boba, and the story’s conclusion is inevitable; we know Solo will end up with Jabba. The fun lies in finding out why the other bounty hunters, as well as Luke and the gang, are involved in the war, along with Valance the Cyborg, Domina Tagge and Doctor Aphra. Since the latter three are Marvel creations, they can be further developed. Their fates are unknown to us. Those characters are given just enough traits and twists to keep us reading.

Boba’s situation is complicated thanks to some gangland entanglements with the Kanji Hutts and it becomes apparent that his journey to Tatooine won’t be a straight run. Over in Star Wars issue 13, the rebel alliance searches for their carbon-cosy pal in “The Hunt for Han Solo.” They’re one issue behind Boba so they don’t catch up with him or his cargo. But they, too, face the Kanji. With an image of Boba on a wall and the good guys facing aliens, the cover of this story is reminiscent of the original Star Wars issue 7.

Next up is Bounty Hunters issue 12, which develops the relationship between Valance and Han Solo; and Darth Vader issue 12, continuing a captivating conflict between the Dark Lord of the Sith and his Emperor. The animosity between them makes Vader’s ultimate betrayal of his master less sudden and more believable in Return of the Jedi.

The final prelude is in Doctor Aphra issue 10. Although Aphra is a character with great potential – imagine a Lucasfilm version of Lara Croft, Tomb Raider – “The Invitation” feels the least like a Star Wars story, despite its stomping Stormtroopers and exploding machinery. There’s no direct mention of the Han Solo situation and we’re launched into a confusing situation, even with a ‘story so far’ at the beginning of the book. If you’re not familiar with Aphra’s past and her allies, beware.

Despite this weak link, the War of the Bounty Hunters saga has strong artwork, entertaining characters and situations, and Star Wars references aplenty. Whether that’s enough to hold our attention through 34 comics remains to be seen. But fans have plenty to look forward to in these ‘deleted scenes’ from The Book of Boba Fett, which will lead to Marvel’s contemporary take on Return of the Jedi.

Are you reading War of the Bounty Hunters (affiliate link)? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 10 July 2021

The Witcher celebrated at WitcherCon

A teaser trailer for The Witcher's second season dropped during the first-ever WitcherCon, a digital celebration of all things The Witcher from Netflix and CD Projekt Red.

The first series had a stumbling start but quickly transcended those early episodes becoming an unmissable heir to Game of Thrones in 2019. And the second season promises further monster-hunting tales this Christmas.

During the three-hour WitcherCon, series star Henry Cavill provided his take on Geralt of Rivia’s journey.

“I played the Season One way deliberately, which was him out in the wilds and without the opportunity for vast swathes of dialogue. I thought it best to be the man who says less because that seems like he’s thinking more. And that was the intention with that. But once you get into a scenario with Cirilla, and the Witchers and his home space and with those people who he already knows, I was of the opinion that you had to let him be verbose and be philosophical and speak more and be intellectual, because that’s what he is. He’s not just a big old white-haired brute.”

Whilst Cyberpunk 2077 was mired in controversy when it was released to coincide with the launch of the PlayStation 5 (PS5) and Xbox Series X|S last holiday season, The Witcher continues to be CD Projekt's most beloved multimedia franchise.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt next-gen update is coming to PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC for free this year! And it'll include free DLC inspired by the Netflix series. Glad I never continued a playthrough on Xbox Series X from 2017.

The Witcher's second season starts streaming exclusively on 17th December on Netflix.

Are you looking forward to the second season of The Witcher? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 9 July 2021

Enter the multiverse in Marvel Studios' What If...?

Marvel Studios has released an official trailer for What If...?, its first-ever animated series for Disney+.

Marvel Studios' What If...? is an excellent primer for all things multiverse as hinted in WandaVision and soon Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

The impressive voice cast includes Hayley Atwell as Captain Peggy Carter, Josh Brolin as Thanos, Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark, David Dastmalchian as Kurt, Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Jeff Goldblum as Grandmaster, Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow, Sean Gunn as Kraglin, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Djimon Hounsou as Korath the Pursuer, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Toby Jones as Arnim Zola, Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger, Neal McDonough as Dum Dum Dugan, Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton, Michael Rooker as Yondu Udonta, Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, Sebastian Stan as James “Bucky” Barnes, Chris Sullivan as Taserface, Stanley Tucci as Abraham Erskine, and Taika Waititi as Korg.

It's especially poignant that fans (myself included) get to hear the late Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa.

Now that Loki Wednesdays are a thing, Marvel Studios' What If...? starts streaming 11th August with new episodes every Wednesday on Disney+.

In related news. Marvel Studios' Black Widow is now in cinemas and available exclusively on Disney+ with Premier Access.

Are you looking forward to Marvel Studios' What If...? on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 8 July 2021

Independence Day director talks Disney+

The Tomorrow War, streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime, is a hit with subscribers during the ongoing pandemic - an era starved of blockbusters on the big screen. Chris McKay's sci-fi movie wears its influences on its Starship Troopers sleeve.

Independence Day (ID4), celebrating its 25th anniversary, is one such inspiration and its director, Roland Emmerich, wants to revisit the disaster movie franchise he created following The Walt Disney Company's acquisition of Twentieth Century Fox's film and television assets.

"They have now a streaming service and they need product. I would love to do maybe a third one, or a TV show, continuing the story," Emmerich explained to ComicBook.com. "When we did Independence Day: Resurgence, we already had, also, the third part already. And actually, the third part has much more to do with the first part, because we learned, more or less, that out there are a lot of refugees and they're living on a refugee planet. And where [the aliens] finally come there because, somewhat like these aliens on earth, found out about it and telepathically or whatever gave it to their super queen. They're all humans, but in all different forms. So it's this thing that we have Brent Spiner and Jeff Goldblum and we have them with all these different forms of people, which would be a great movie. But we'll see what happens."

Emmerich describes why the original movie means so much to him.

"It doesn't matter, whoever does it, but I feel very passionate about it, very, very passionate, because it was a little bit like ... this movie single-handedly also got me total freedom. I have final cut since then. I pretty much do my own thing," the filmmaker said. "And now, even producing my own films, no studio anymore, I got myself a studio, you know what I mean? In a very small form, like a little garage studio. Anyhow ... I feel very, very passionate about it because it was my first -- actually, that's why both Stargate and Independence Day are seminal movies for me. They pretty much created all of what I did afterwards."

Ironically, at the time of Independence Day's release, Twentieth Century Fox cancelled Space: Above and Beyond. A short-lived sci-fi series that foreshadowed the Battlestar Galactica reboot and deserves a new audience on Star on Disney+.

Independence Day and Independence Day: Resurgence are available to stream on Star on Disney+. However, I'd suggest skipping the sequel and watching something less boring instead.

Would you watch the third instalment of Independence Day? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

Zack Snyder's 'Star Wars' on Netflix

Zack Snyder (Justice League), fresh from Army of the Dead, is reworking a pre-Disney Star Wars pitch for Netflix.

Rebel Moon is based on Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai.

"This is me growing up as an Akira Kurosawa fan, a Star Wars fan," said Snyder in his announcement. “It’s my love of sci-fi and a giant adventure. My hope is that this also becomes a massive IP and a universe that can be built out.”

Rebel Moon evokes Roger Corman's Battle Beyond the Stars, released in the wake of Star Wars' success, and it's piqued my interest following Snyder's cut of Justice League. Shay Hatten, who worked with Snyder on 300 and Army of the Dead, has been hired to flesh out the universe for Rebel Moon.

"I’ve spent the last two or three years building out this universe. Every corner has to be painted in. I’ve been doing designs, constantly drawing and really cultivating its fertile ground to make this world fully realized," said Hatten.

The runaway success of Disney+, owing much to Marvel Studios and Star Wars, is putting increasing pressure on Netflix. The Fear Street trilogy is currently proving popular with slasher film fans (myself included) as it channels the nostalgia of Netflix stablemate Stranger Things.

Rebel Moon goes into production in 2022.

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Star Wars: Visions first look at Anime Expo Lite

Lucasfilm has shared the first look at Star Wars: Visions during a panel at Anime Expo Lite.

"As a first formal venture into anime, each “Star Wars: Visions” short bears a unique Japanese sensibility, which in many ways aligns with the tone and spirit of Star Wars storytelling. From the beginning, stories told in the Star Wars galaxy have counted Japanese mythology and the films of Akira Kurosawa among their many influences, and these new visions will further explore that cultural heritage through the unique animation style and perspective of each anime studio."

Kamikaze Douga - The Duel
Geno Studio (Twin Engine) - Lop and Ochō
Studio Colorido (Twin Engine) - Tatooine Rhapsody
Trigger - The Twins
Trigger - The Elder
Kinema Citrus - The Village Bride
Science Saru - Akakiri
Science Saru - T0-B1
Production IG - The Ninth Jedi

All nine episodes of Star Wars: Visions will be released on Disney+ 22nd September.

Are you looking forward to Star Wars: Visions on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 4 July 2021

He-Man fights to save Eternia on Netflix

Happy 4th of July to all our US-based readers! Nick Smith is taking a well-earned break from hunting xenomorphs to enjoy the Independence Day festivities this weekend. So, I'm on hand to champion the heroes of Eternia in their darkest hour.

Netflix Geeked has announced an official trailer for Masters of the Universe: Revelation Part 1.

There's still no sign of Stratos as a friend and fellow fan of the franchise pointed out on Facebook. Perhaps he'll appear in Part 2?

The Kevin Smith led production also announced a few more voices for its cast: Dennis Haysbert as King Grayskull, Adam Gifford as Vikor and Jay Tavare as Wundar.

The five-episode series has a star-packed cast including Mark Hamill as Skeletor, Lena Headey as Evil-Lyn, Chris Wood as Prince Adam/He-Man, Sarah Michelle Gellar as Teela, Liam Cunningham as Man-At-Arms, Stephen Root as Cringer, Henry Rollins as Tri-Klops, Alicia Silverstone as Queen Marlena, Jason Mewes as Stinkor, and more.

Here’s the official description: "The war for Eternia culminates in Masters of the Universe: Revelation, an innovative and action-packed animated series that picks up where the iconic characters left off decades ago. After a cataclysmic battle between He-Man and Skeletor, Eternia is fractured and the Guardians of Grayskull are scattered. And after decades of secrets tore them apart, it’s up to Teela to reunite the broken band of heroes and solve the mystery of the missing Sword of Power in a race against time to restore Eternia and prevent the end of the universe."

Smith's trailer breakdown amps the hype to the nth degree with his impassioned insights.

The Masterverse toy line is now appearing alongside Masters of the Universe Origins at retail. So far, I've not collected any of Mattel's latest lines since Masters of the Universe Classics ended! However, Hallmark's Castle Grayskull Christmas tree ornament is the perfect gift this holiday season. Hopefully, it'll be available in the UK, too.

Masters of the Universe: Revelation premieres on Netflix on 23rd July.

After watching the trailer, are you excited for Masters of the Universe: Revelation? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 3 July 2021

Alien series shooting without Ripley

James Cameron's Aliens marks its 35th anniversary this year and Noah Hawley (Fargo) has shared details about his mysterious Alien spin-off series for FX on Hulu with Vanity Fair.

"What's next for me, it looks like, is [an] Alien series for FX, taking on that franchise and those amazing films by Ridley Scott and James Cameron and David Fincher," Hawley said. "I've written a couple of scripts, the first two scripts, and we're looking to make them next spring."

If you are hoping for a cameo from Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), a la Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in Disney stablemate The Mandalorian, you may be deeply disappointed.

"It's not a Ripley story," he added. "She's one of the great characters of all time, and I think the story has been told pretty perfectly, and I don't want to mess with it."

This may be a misdirect as Weaver could be de-aged for the FX on Hulu and Star on Disney+ series. Regardless, I want to be surprised and Nick Smith recently wrote about his hopes and fears for the upcoming Alien series.

Whilst many fans (myself included) of the franchise lament never seeing Neill Blomkamp's (District 9) Alien 5, I'm hopeful this spin-off series will surpass Sir Ridley Scott's prequels as it focuses on humanities parasitic past and AI-dominated technological future.

Prometheus is available to stream on Star on Disney+. The original Alien and Aliens are coming soon to the House of Mouse's streaming service in the UK.

Friday, 2 July 2021

The Tomorrow War on Amazon Prime

The Tomorrow War, starring Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy), is now available to stream exclusively on Amazon Prime (affiliate link).

Read the synopsis:

"Time travelers arrive from 2051 to deliver an urgent message: 30 years in the future mankind is losing a war against a deadly alien species. The only hope for survival is for soldiers and civilians to be transported to the future and join the fight. Determined to save the world for his daughter, Dan Forester teams up with a brilliant scientist and his estranged father to rewrite the planet’s fate."

The Tomorrow War was delayed by Paramount Pictures due to the pandemic and the $200 million movie was acquired by Amazon to bolster its slim summer blockbuster offerings.

Pratt's latest timey-wimey sci-fi actioner, directed by Chris McKay (The LEGO Batman Movie), looks not unlike Edge of Tomorrow with callbacks to Independence Day (ID4). He holds his own outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and Jurassic World bubbles.

Will you be watching The Tomorrow War on Amazon Prime Video this 4th July weekend? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Darth Vader crashes classical concert

That moment when Darth Vader, flanked by Imperial Stormtroopers, crashes a classical concert and stays for a rousing rendition of veteran Star Wars composer John Williams' The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme) from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

Clearly, the Dark Lord of the Sith was impressed by the Russian State Cinema Symphony Orchestra's performance, at the Moscow Conservatory, in 2015. So much so, he didn't Force choke the conductor when the original Death Star exploded on screen...

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

The Good, The Bart, and The Loki

The Simpsons follow up the inspired Maggie Simpson in The Force Awakens From Its Nap with a Marvel Studios spin-off.

The Good, The Bart, and The Loki, which premieres on 7th July on Disney+.

In the special episode, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been banished from Asgard and finds himself in Springfield, where he teams up with Bart Simpson.

New episodes of Marvel Studios' Loki premiere every Wednesday exclusively on Disney+. I've yet to watch an episode of the latest live-action spin-off series and will be catching up during a midweek break from UEFA Euro 2020.

Are you looking forward to The Good, The Bart, and The Loki on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Apple TV+'s ambitious Foundation

Apple TV+ has released a second official teaser trailer for Foundation. The 10-part sci-fi series looks every bit as ambitious as director Denis Villeneuve's Dune.

Here's the official Foundation synopsis:

"Based on the award-winning novels by Isaac Asimov, Foundation chronicles a band of exiles on their monumental journey to save humanity and rebuild civilization amid the fall of the Galactic Empire."

Series showrunner and executive producer David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight Trilogy) elaborates on the creative impulse behind this lavish live-action adaptation.

“In the decades since the ‘Foundation’ series first saw print, Asimov’s prophetic science-fiction work has never been more relevant than it is now,” said Goyer. “Growing up, I devoured ‘Foundation’ and dreamed of one day seeing it on screen – but a feature film didn’t seem big enough to embrace the ambition. Thanks to the broader landscape of streaming and a valuable partnership with Apple and Skydance, we are able to bring the series to the screen in a way that truly does it justice. ‘Foundation’ has always been at the top of my bucket list and I’m honored I get to play a part in finally bringing it to life. Whether you’re a fan of the novels or simply someone craving a mind-blowing epic, I’m excited to share with you what we’ve created.”

After availing myself of an extended free annual subscription to Apple TV+ (included with the purchase of an iPhone SE) and cancelling NOW (formerly NOW TV) following the closure of the Fox channel in the UK. This August, I’ll be switching to Apple One as it bundles Apple TV+ with Apple Arcade and Apple Music. The latter now features Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos at no extra cost. And I'll benefit from iCloud+ when it launches later this year.

Foundation is set to premiere on 24th September exclusively on Apple TV+.

Are you looking forward to Foundation on Apple TV+? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 28 June 2021

It's a bug hunt in Aliens: Fireteam Elite

The Alien film franchise is no stranger to the video game medium with official tie-ins for the Atari VCS and Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) to Fortnite.

Sega's Alien: Isolation distilled the claustrophobic horror of Sir Ridley Scott's original film to nerve-shredding effect in 2014. Aliens: Fireteam Elite, for Xbox, PlayStation and PC, sees Aliens' Colonial Marines back in action for a licensed co-op shooter.

About Aliens: Fireteam Elite:

"Set in the iconic Alien universe, Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a cooperative third-person survival shooter that drops your fireteam of hardened marines into a desperate fight to contain the evolving Xenomorph threat.

Face off against waves of terrifying Xenomorph and Weyland-Yutani Synthetic foes alongside two players or AI teammates, as you and your fireteam desperately fight your way through four unique campaigns that introduce new storylines to the Alien universe. Create and customize your own Colonial Marine, choosing from an extensive variety of classes, weapons, gear and perks, battling overwhelming odds in this heart-pounding survival shooter experience."

Although the game's longevity remains to be seen, it looks fun and something I would play if it ever comes to Game Pass. Hopefully, it won't be any worse than Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance, which is included on Game Pass and was one of the first titles I tried out on my new Xbox Series S last week.

Will you be joining the fight against the deadly xenomorph threat this August? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 27 June 2021

Dune pushed back by Bond

Contrary to earlier rumours, Dune, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049), delayed from last Christmas due to the pandemic, will premiere day-and-date on HBO Max and in theatres this October.

According to insiders, Dune has been pushed back three weeks to avoid clashing with No Time To Die at the box office. The latest James Bond movie is expected to do well as it sees Daniel Craig exit as the titular spy.

Dune will have its world premiere at the 78th Venice International Film Festival on 3rd September before being released in cinemas and on HBO Max on October 22nd.

Are you looking forward to Dune? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 26 June 2021

Star Wars: The Essential Legends Collection

Lucasfilm continues to celebrate its first 50 years with Star Wars: The Essential Legends Collection curated by Del Rey.

"Novels set in a galaxy far, far away have enriched the Star Wars experience for fans seeking to continue the adventure beyond the screen. When he created Star Wars, George Lucas built a universe that sparked the imagination, and inspired others to create. He opened up that universe to be a creative space for other people to tell their own tales. This became known as the Expanded Universe, or EU, of novels, comics, videogames, and more.

To this day, the EU remains an inspiration for Star Wars creators and is published under the label Legends. Ideas, characters, story elements, and more from new Star Wars entertainment trace their origins back to material from the Expanded Universe. This Essential Legends Collection curates some of the most treasured stories from that expansive legacy.

The collection will launch on June 15, 2021, with new trade paperback editions of Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn, Darth Bane: Path of Destruction by Drew Karpyshyn, and Shatterpoint by Matthew Stover. Each edition will have a new book cover with original artwork. Tracie Ching is the cover artist of Heir to the Empire, Simon Goinard is the cover artist of Path of Destruction, and Jeff Manning is the cover artist of Shatterpoint. In addition to the new cover, Shatterpoint will also receive an all-new unabridged audiobook edition, narrated by Sullivan Jones.

On September 7th, the collection expands with a new batch of trade paperback editions: Dark Force Rising by Timothy Zahn, The Last Command by Timothy Zahn, Darth Bane: The Rule of Two by Drew Karpyshyn, and Rogue Squadron by Michael A. Stackpole. Each edition will have a new book cover with original artwork. Tracie Ching is the cover artist of Dark Force Rising and The Last Command, Simon Goinard is the cover artist of The Rule of Two, and Doaly is the cover artist of Rogue Squadron. In addition to the new cover, Rogue Squadron will also receive an all-new unabridged audiobook edition, read by Star Wars narrator Marc Thompson."

Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy began 30 years ago with Star Wars: Heir to the Empire (affiliate link). Zahn's sequel trilogy introduced fan-favourite Grand Admiral Thrawn who has gone on to appear in Star Wars Rebels and was most recently namechecked in the second season of The Mandalorian on Disney+. This has sparked rumours of a new live-action Thrawn trilogy from Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni.

What are your favourite Star Wars EU novels, comics, toys and more? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 25 June 2021

Star Wars: The Bad Batch mid-season peek

Star Wars: The Bad Batch, a spin-off from Star Wars: The Clone Wars, reaches its mid-season with Clone Force 99 and Omega pursued by an emergent Empire aided by fellow clone and former comrade, Crosshair.

The animated series doesn't shy away from darker themes in the wake of Emperor Palpatine's Order 66 in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.

"It's exciting that I get to continue that story and tell a little bit more about what happens to the clones," series head writer and executive producer Jennifer Corbett told StarWars.com. "That's why I feel bad for Crosshair and all the clones. He didn’t have a choice. The chip was planted and none of them have a say in what they did. He's an interesting character. I can't wait for you to see where it goes."

New episodes of Star Wars: The Bad Batch premiere every Friday exclusively on Disney+.

Thursday, 24 June 2021

MasterClass with filmmaker James Cameron

Academy Award-winning director James Cameron (Titanic) took a break from working on his Avatar sequels to become the latest member of a growing pantheon of creatives to be featured on MasterClass.

"From The Terminator and Titanic to Avatar, James Cameron has directed some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters. Now, for the first time in his 40-year career, he opens up about his process. Through behind-the-scenes breakdowns, James shares his approach to developing ideas, storylines, and characters; harnessing technology; and worldbuilding on any budget. Explore the innovation and imagination behind epic moviemaking."

“I’ve been directing films for almost four decades, and if there’s one thing I’ve realized, it’s that learning is a constant process,” Cameron said in a statement. “Every filmmaker stands on the shoulders of the filmmakers who came before them, and I hope that my MasterClass will allow members to filter and develop my techniques through their own subjective lens and experiences.”

Added MasterClass founder and CEO David Rogier: “Having directed two of the top three highest-grossing films of all time, there’s no question the impact that Jim has had on both the film industry and film fans around the world. In his class, Jim takes our members behind the camera and, for the first time in his career, shares what he’s learned in four decades of directing epic films.”

25 years ago I graduated with a degree in Media Production from Bournemouth University. Cameron, along with contemporaries George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, inspired me to pursue a career in the creative arts.

As I've written previously, a textual analysis of Terminator 2: Judgment Day (handwritten and lost to time) garnered unconditional offers to study on several university courses, which was in stark contrast to what a high school career tutor suggested would ever be possible as outlined here.

Will you be watching James Cameron's MasterClass? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Star Wars: Visions at Anime Expo Lite

Anime Expo (AX) has announced Lucasfilm will have an official first look at Star Wars: Visions at Anime Expo Lite, the largest celebration of Japanese pop culture in the US, this July.

This has somewhat piqued my interest as a fan of both anime (since Battle of the Planets) and Star Wars. As an undergraduate, I avidly read Anime UK/FX before the magazine ceased publication in 1996.

Join host and pop culture maven Chastity Vicencio and Lucasfilm’s Jacqui Lopez (Executive Producer), James Waugh (Executive Producer), Josh Rimes (Executive Producer), and Qubic Pictures’ Justin Leach (Co-Executive Producer) and Kanako Shirasaki (Producer) for an inside look at Star Wars: Visions before the series debuts on Disney+ later this year.

The upcoming animated Star Wars spin-off series for Disney+ will showcase a galaxy far, far away... through the lens of visionary anime creators.

Here's the official series synopsis:

"'Star Wars: Visions' will be a series of animated short films celebrating 'Star Wars' through the lens of the world's best anime creators. The anthology collection will bring ten fantastic visions from several of the leading Japanese anime studios, offering a fresh and diverse cultural perspective to 'Star Wars.'"

Anime Expo Lite, celebrating 30 years of AX, runs 3rd - 4th July. For further information, please visit StarWars.com.

Are you looking forward to Star Wars: Visions on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 21 June 2021

Alien to infest Hulu and Star on Disney+

Marvel Comics' all-new Alien series heralds the arrival of the iconic movie monster at Disney.

Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, looks ahead to the first live-action spin-off series coming to FX on Hulu and Star on Disney+.

Guest post by Nick Smith

I first saw Sir Ridley Scott’s Alien on TV as a teenager. I’d read a lot about H.R. Giger’s designs, seen pictures of the Space Jockey, watched clips and spoofs of the chestburster scene and read reviews describing Alien as a “boo!” of a film. But I wasn’t prepared for the sheer excitement of watching it as it built to its roller coaster peak of a finale. I watched it at midnight, alone, in the dark. It was a goose-bumping, singular experience that could be repeated but surely never topped.

Not to be outdone, James Cameron (Avatar) went ahead and topped it with his sequel. It was bigger, more exciting, satirising military movie stereotypes in the same vein as Alien’s over-the-top “company” had commented on powerful corporations, steering just this side of realism. Instead of Jones the cat, Ripley had a little girl to rescue, emphasizing her maternal instincts. Aliens is rarely matched for its thrills and characters you care about.

I played my Alien and Aliens soundtrack LPs until vinyl wasn’t a thing anymore. They made great background music when I was writing, furiously typing away to James Horner’s climactic beats. If I’d been able to get my young paws on Kenner’s toy range, I would have bought every figure. But the range never surfaced in my local toy store.

The Kenner range was released in the US in the early ‘90s, featuring animal hybrid xenomorphs that prefigured the bio-blends of later sequels. There were toys of the marines from Aliens (Apone, Hudson, Drake and Vasquez) despite the sticky end they received in the movie!

A cartoon was proposed, but perhaps we should be thankful that a great outer space horror movie didn’t get turned into watered-down, kid-friendly fare a la the Rambo and RoboCop toons that did get produced.

Now there are Alien toys in the local Walmart and Disney has its mousey gloves on Fox’s cash creature. In December 2020, Disney announced its mission to make Alien its next 'mega-franchise.' The live-action series will be on Star on Disney+ internationally and FX on Hulu in the US, with Noah Hawley (Fargo) showrunning and Sir Ridley Scott in an executive producer role. Will the forthcoming live-action series be a pale imitation of its silver screen forbears, like My Big fat Greek Life (except with creatures laying eggs in your chest)?

On the big screen, the xenomorph has never quite reached its Scott/Cameron heights since Aliens was released in 1986. While Prometheus was intriguing, it trod stale ground with its “Ancient Aliens” ideas and characters as cold as LV-426, distant from the sympathetic heroes of the first two Alien films.

TV might be a good fit for the franchise right now. The format is more prone to showing scary stuff these days; while in the 70s and 80s it would focus on atmosphere and characterization, now we can see special effects gore (The Walking Dead) and spectacle (the twisted corpse sculptures of Hannibal).

How much will be shown on FX on Hulu and Star on Disney+? Promisingly, a source told Edward Lauder of Small Screen, "These future Alien properties will be full-blown action-horror. They are not intending to make these upcoming movies and TV shows PG-13. Disney execs see this property and the Predator franchise – which they now also own – as their ‘adult’ offerings and they are hoping to boost their adult subscribers…"

Although the new show is being touted as the first story set on Earth, we’ve already seen xenomorphs on the loose in Alien vs Predator: Requiem. If that 2007 film hadn’t been part of the saga, it would have been fine as a monsters-on-the-loose film. But it failed to live up to its legacy with a puppy love story pandering to 18-to-25-year-olds instead of focusing on mature, capable actors. So how can the new showrunners learn from Requiem’s mistakes?

I like a happy ending as much as the next viewer, but Lost and The Walking Dead have shown that audiences are not turned off by the death of major characters; in Alien, the ‘final girl’ element raises the stakes and makes us care more about her, admiring the fact that she survives.

If the new Alien series wants to endure, it will have to cater to the fans who have supported the movies over the years, invent new ways to incorporate original, horrific ideas, and scare the pants off them.

Are you looking forward to the Alien spin-off series? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 20 June 2021

LEGO Star Wars and more at LEGO CON

The first-ever LEGO CON, hosted by Melvin Odoom and YouTuber Michelle Khare, will be held online this week!

The event is shrouded in secrecy, but expect news regarding LEGO Harry Potter, LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Super Mario and more.

Will you be tuning in to the LEGO CON on 26th June? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 18 June 2021

Star Wars: The Bad Batch Vintage Collection

As part of its Star Wars Fan Celebration, Hasbro has revealed Star Wars: The Vintage Collection: The Bad Batch in stunning retro-inspired packaging.

Emily Cantelupe (Senior Product Designer, Hasbro Star Wars) said this about the Kenner-branded vintage collection: “The Vintage Collection is a great line for celebrating troop building, so we built this pack to bring in the new clones coming to the Disney+ animated series, Star Wars: The Bad Batch!”

The Pawtucket-based company's Photo Real Technology impresses with Captain Rex, Captain Grey, Captain Ballast and an Elite Squad Trooper.

Cantelupe goes on to say: “Fans will notice that The Vintage Collection Star Wars: The Bad Batch Figure 4-pack brings some brand new sculpted portrait heads to The Vintage Collection. Each comes with unique details like Captain Ballast's unique hair sculpt with the shaved sides. We hope that these new portraits will bring some variety to collector’s shelves!“

In related news. The Black Series continues to commemorate the first 50 years of Lucasfilm with Power of the Force-themed packaging featuring fan-favourites Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Greedo from Star Wars: A New Hope. I remember avidly collecting the 'muscular' toy line, at inflated import prices from a defunct local comic book store, in the mid-nineties.

The exclusive 4-pack can be pre-ordered at Amazon.com (affiliate link) and will be released in the fall.

New episodes of Star Wars: The Bad Batch premiere every Friday exclusively on Disney+.

Will you be adding Star Wars: The Bad Batch to your vintage collection? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Timey-wimey teaser for Star Trek: Picard

Paramount+ dropped a teaser trailer for Star Trek: Picard’s second season on Captain Picard Day, which celebrates an annual event aboard the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) as seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation episode The Pegasus.

“How I’ve missed you,” Q (John de Lancie) tells Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). “Welcome, my friend, to the very end of the road not taken.”

The omnipotent Q first appeared in Encounter at Farpoint and subjected the crew of the USS Enterprise to ongoing trials throughout Star Trek: The Next Generation's seven seasons.

“Q’s arrival is, as it often was, utterly unexpected but also comes at a shattering moment in the episode,” Stewart said during the surprise announcement of Q’s return on First Contact Day in April. “Whether it’s directly connected to Q or not, I am actually still not quite sure, but there is significant trauma, and in fact at the moment, I’m working on how the trauma of this moment hangs around Picard for quite a substantial part of the episode. Then, there he is.”

Evidently, there are alternate timeline and time travel shenanigans involved, sci-fi staples currently explored in Marvel Studios' Loki (itself channelling Doctor Who) on Disney+.

Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds are all in production for Paramount+. Star Trek: Picard is on Amazon Prime (affiliate link) outside the US.

Are you looking forward to the second season of Star Trek: Picard in 2022? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

DC's Stargirl returns this August

The first season of DC's Stargirl was a delightful surprise when it was released last year on Amazon Prime (affiliate link) in the UK. Although the second season of The Boys had recently dropped, a school friend had passed away (not COVID-related), and I was looking for something with hope for the future.

An uplifting DC Comics superhero series for all ages, evoking Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with production values worthy of HBO Max stablemates Swamp Thing and Watchmen. DC's Stargirl bucked the trend of The CW's DCTV spin-offs.

DC's Stargirl moves from the DC Universe to The CW for its second season, but with no loss in quality. The CW has released an official extended trailer introducing Jade (Ysa Penarejo), the daughter of Green Lantern. She confronts the titular Stargirl (Brec Bassinger).

Eclipso (Nick Tarabay), teased as this season's big bad, is described as 'terrifying' by series showrunner Geoff Johns.

The second season of DC's Stargirl begins on 10th August.

Are you looking forward to the return of DC's Stargirl? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Kevin Smith on Masters of the Universe

Following the release of an official teaser trailer during Netflix's Geeked Week, Kevin Smith sheds further light on his upcoming Masters of the Universe: Revelation series.

"We pick up, spiritually, where He-Man and the Masters of the Universe left off," Smith notes. "So at the beginning of our episode, it plays for the first 10 minutes like a way better animated version of the old show. It's very simple, we establish the relationships, and it's very warm and young feeling. And then about halfway through the show, we turn everything. Something happens, and we kind of grow it up."

Seemingly his hints have stirred up controversy with the suggestion (from some fans) that the series will mostly focus on Teela (Sarah Michelle Gellar) in a bait and switch, which the Masters of the Universe: Revelation showrunner has debunked.

Each episode will be an homage to an eighties movie:

Ep 1 - Superman II
Ep 2 - Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Ep 3 - Batman
Ep 4 - Hellraiser
Ep 5 - Masters of the Universe

Personally, I'm really looking forward to seeing more Masters of the Universe from the fine folks at Mattel Television.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 14 June 2021

Halo Infinite campaign teased at E3

Microsoft is celebrating the 20th anniversary of Xbox and Halo through November.

During yesterday's Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase at E3, Halo Infinite's campaign was teased with the introduction of a mysterious new Cortana-like AI companion. She's tasked with impersonating Cortana and helping Master Chief destroy her forever, which should lead to a tense interpersonal conflict in what promises to be John-117's final battle.

“We are continuing the story of the Master Chief and Cortana from Halo 5, but also telling a story that’s welcoming for new players,” wrote Halo Infinite head of creative Joseph Staten in a blog post. “Cortana’s fate is one of the Infinite campaign’s big mysteries, and early in the story, you will meet a new UNSC AI, ‘the Weapon,’ that was created to help stop Cortana. Together with the Pilot, the Master Chief, and the Weapon begin an epic adventure to explore Zeta Halo, defeat the Banished forces who control the ring, and unravel even more mysteries along the way.”

Although there wasn't any campaign gameplay shown during the Mass Effect 2-inspired presentation, it's captured my imagination and encouraged me to pick up an Xbox Series S at the weekend. Why not a Series X? I already own a PlayStation 5 (PS5), and the Series S with its matching livery will be my console of choice for all things Game Pass going forward.

Game Pass is making Sony's first-party PS5 titles look prohibitively expensive and the strategy is working for Microsoft.

If the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase wasn't enough, you can look forward to Xbox Games Showcase: Extended, featuring internal studios including Ninja Theory, this Thursday.

Halo Infinite will be released over the holiday season after being delayed from last year. The next instalment in the beloved franchise looks incredible and I'll be playing day-one on Game Pass Ultimate.

Are you excited about Halo Infinite? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 12 June 2021

Invasion this Halloween on Apple TV+

Apple TV+ is carving out a niche for glossy genre fare beginning with For All Mankind, a reboot of Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories, Servant and the upcoming Foundation based on Isaac Asimov's Hugo Award-winning book series.

Invasion, not to be confused with ABC's short-lived but excellent sci-fi series from 2005, arrives on Apple TV+ in time for Halloween. It's a modern riff on The War of the Worlds.

From Academy Award-nominated and two-time Emmy Award-nominated producer Simon Kinberg (The Martian) and David Weil (Hunters), Invasion is a sweeping, character-driven sci-fi drama series that follows an alien invasion through different perspectives around the world.

Set across multiple continents, Invasion stars Shamier Anderson, Golshifteh Farahani, Sam Neill, Firas Nassar and Shioli Kutsuna.

After availing myself of an extended free annual subscription to Apple TV+ (included with the purchase of an iPhone SE). This August, I’ll be switching to Apple One as it bundles Apple TV+ with Apple Arcade and Apple Music. The latter now features Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos at no extra cost. And I'll benefit from iCloud+ (announced at this week's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC)) when it launches later this year.

Invasion will debut with the first three episodes on 22nd October followed by new episodes weekly, every Friday.

Are you looking forward to Invasion on Apple TV+? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 11 June 2021

Masters of the Universe at Netflix’s Geeked Week

An official teaser trailer for Masters of the Universe: Revelation dropped during Netflix Geeked's first-ever Geeked Week.

Unlike She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Kevin Smith’s Masters of the Universe: Revelation is a continuation of the original Filmation animated series that ended in 1985.

Read the official series synopsis:

“After a cataclysmic battle between He-Man and Skeletor, Eternia is fractured and the Guardians of Grayskull are scattered. And after decades of secrets tore them apart, it’s up to Teela to reunite the broken band of heroes, and solve the mystery of the missing Sword of Power in a race against time to restore Eternia and prevent the end of the universe.”

The upcoming series has a star-studded cast filled with fan-favourites:

Chris Wood as Prince Adam/He-Man
Mark Hamill as Skeletor
Lena Headey as Evil-Lyn
Sarah Michelle Gellar as Teela
Liam Cunningham as Man-At-Arms
Stephen Root as Cringer
Diedrich Bader as King Randor/Trap Jaw
Griffin Newman as Orko
Tiffany Smith as Andra
Henry Rollins as Tri-Klops
Alan Oppenheimer as Moss Man
Susan Eisenberg as Sorceress
Alicia Silverstone as Queen Marlena
Justin Long as Roboto
Jason Mewes as Stinkor
Phil LaMarr as He-Ro
Tony Todd as Scare Glow
Cree Summer as Priestess
Kevin Michael Richardson as Beast Man
Kevin Conroy as Mer-Man

The Masterverse toy line (affiliate link) is released on 15th June. Fans of all ages will be able to play with action figures whilst watching the 5-part series from Mattel Television.

Masters of the Universe: Revelation premieres on Netflix on 23rd July.

What did you think of the Masters of the Universe: Revelation teaser trailer? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 10 June 2021

War of the Worlds invades Star on Disney+

With the impending closure of the Fox channel in the UK, the second season of War of the Worlds will stream exclusively on Star on Disney+ this July.

When we went into the first lockdown due to the global pandemic in March 2020, Fox's Anglo-French reimagining of H.G. Wells' classic alien invasion story-cum-essay on cultural imperialism had already started on Fox.

It was certainly no seminal sci-fi mini-series. However, I stoically stuck with it, unlike the much-maligned BBC adaptation, which wasn't helped by being scheduled after the superlative His Dark Materials in the run-up to Christmas 2019.

Daisy Edgar-Jones (Normal People) played Emily Gresham who regained her eyesight whenever near an alien invader. For a while, War of the Worlds was a fun post-apocalyptic romp in the style of The Walking Dead until it became patently clear we weren’t going to see any tripods trampling humans on a scale comparable to Steven Spielberg's big screen adaptation or even the BBC's early eighties series The Tripods! Le sigh!

Here’s hoping there are tripods this time.

Series showrunner Howard Overman (Misfits) commented: “It was always my intention in the first series of War of the Worlds that the intricacies of human relationships would be at its heart. Watching these complex characters brought to life by such a fantastic cast of actors was a joy, and it’s been a thrill returning to their stories for Season 2.”

Edgar-Jones reprises the role of Emily following her award-winning turn in Normal People. She'll be joined by returning cast members Gabriel Byrne, Léa Drucker, Natasha Little, Stéphane Caillard, Adel Bencherif, Ty Tennant, Stephen Campbell Moore, Bayo Gbadamosi, Aaron Heffernan and Emilie de Preissac.

Season one is currently streaming on Star on Disney+.

Are you looking forward to the second season of War of the Worlds? Let me know in the comments below.